Great Britain’s Winter Gardens

Many English gardens have areas specifically landscaped to take advantage of the bare branches, snow, and ice of winter.

Have you ever watched a period piece set in England, like Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre and wished you could take a stroll through one of those elaborate gardens?  Believe it or not, those incredible gardens exist all over the UK and are typically open to the public for most of the year.  Many gardens have areas specifically landscaped to take advantage of the bare branches, snow, and ice of winter.  Even gardens not designed with winter in mind have their own chilly charm.   When you look at the photos below, it’s not hard to see why gardens have such a monumental place in the hearts of Britain’s citizens.

Stourhead Gardens
Kew Gardens, London

 

Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Globe thistle at Kew Gardens
Pagoda at Kew Gardens
Holly at Kew Gardens

 

 Cover photo (icicles) source

 

Cover photo (bridge) source

 

 

 

 

 

Farmhouses and Barns

I started looking at other examples of farmhouses and converted barns and found amazing examples of both. This style is at once welcoming and luxurious.

I recently saw a piece in Veranda about an incredible farmhouse in Wyoming.   The work of designer Barbara Barry and architect Peter Block, this home showcases the best of the farmhouse style.

Farmhouse in Jackson Hole Valley

It certainly meets the designer’s vision for “a pure and simple country home.”  Every line of the exterior is perfectly suited to the farmhouse look, including the appearance of an attached barn.

Inside the home, Barry worked with natural light and a palette taken from the great outdoors to create a comfortable atmosphere.  Traditional elements throughout the interior are consistent with the farmhouse concept but are well balanced by modern touches.

Kitchen with fireplace.
Dining room.

I started looking at other examples of farmhouses and converted barns and found amazing examples of both.  This style is at once welcoming and luxurious.

Converted barn in Roxbury, CT
Sheffield, MA converted barn from old mill

 

Modern Barn, photographer Simon Upton for Elle Decor
Modern barn interior designed by Russel Groves
Barn with conservatory
from Archtectural Digest
Beautiful converted barn by David Kleinberg

One site I love for referencing barns is Heritage Restorations.  Very cool photos and ideas!

Interesting Hardware

There’s no need to go with plain, basic hardware when the right piece could be the ideal finishing touch for furniture or a room.

Whether on a wall, door, or dresser, hardware can be very boring and generic.  There’s no need to go with plain, basic hardware when the right piece could be the ideal finishing touch for furniture or a room.  Think big, think creative, and you’ll find ways to personalize and accent a space through unique hardware choices.  For example, the hardware in the above mud room photo playfully resembles sticks and tree stumps and yet doesn’t detract at all from the simple beauty of this small space.

Take a look at these examples of different styles of hardware:

Large-scaled hardware adds interest to this serpentine chest.
Hardware from The Nanz Company
All time favorite cabinet pull from Carl Martinez - think about the ends powder coated in black.
Knob by Baldwin Hardware - very chic!
Another favorite from Nanz

 

How can your home benefit from updated, unique hardware?

 

East Asia Inspiration

The culturally exotic lands of East Asia offer a staggering wealth of design inspiration.

The culturally exotic lands of East Asia offer a staggering wealth of design inspiration.  Design inspired by China, Japan, Mongolia, and other East Asian countries is easily recognizable for its minimalist approach, clean lines, attention to space, and use of natural elements.

I like to use accent pieces and patterns with an East Asia influence.  A bold piece, like the dragon below, gives the room a focal point and a bright splash of color.  For something more subtle, look for a pattern or texture inspired by Japanese or Chinese art or design.

 Other designers I really admire have also been influenced by East Asian beauty  Isn’t it amazing how one design inspiration is realized in different forms by different designers?

by Kelly Wearstler
by Tony Duquette
by Tony Duquette

Breakfast Room

This sunny breakfast room became such an ideal spot for a relaxing start to the day.

When designing this breakfast room for a client, I fell in love with their round dining table.  It has such a simple form but with an unexpected shape to the base.  The client asked more than once if we should find an alternative table, but I truly felt it was not necessary.  The table was already an ideal reflection of their style and personality.

With the table as a starting point, we matched it with lovely chairs from Oly, upholstered in three different fabrics:  Edelman Leather for the seat, Chelsea Editions for the back rest, and Carleton V Ltd on the back of the chair for contrast.  When arranged around the table, the chairs add so much visual interest to the room simply from the combination of fabrics.  To soften the room and tie it all together, we added a rug from Patterson, Flynn, and Martin.  The chevron wall covering by Ralph Lauren provides background texture and the flower prints bring an unexpected pop of bright color.   At first glance, the breakfast room looks sophisticated but charming and welcoming with a simple palette.  However, the variety of complementary patterns and textures actually creates a more complex environment that draws the eye around the room to take in every carefully-placed detail.

The photo above includes many of the details I particularly like in this breakfast room.  The subtle pattern of the wall covering, the way the nail heads in the chair are mimicked on the nearby frames, and the shape of the flower on the chair back corresponding to the shape of the flowers in the prints.  This sunny breakfast room became such an ideal spot for a relaxing start to the day.

Greek Keys

Simple and versatile, the Greek key as a design element can be implemented in any color or scale

Also known as meanders, what we today call the Greek key design appeared in ancient friezes and on pottery from Greece’s Geometric Period onward.  Most likely a symbol of eternity and unity, Greek keys are an easily recognizable pattern.

I like to use Greek keys as trim.  It brings a touch of classicism to a room whether the pattern is part of a window treatment or piece of furniture.  Simple and versatile, the Greek key as a design element can be implemented in any color or scale.  It can be paired with other patterns or used alone for maximum impact.  With so many possibilities, it’s no wonder the Greek key has endured for millennia.

When you start to look for it, you find Greek keys in all kinds of places.  It’s amazing to think how long this element has been part of architecture and design!

Formal Living Room

The vibrant colors and sumptuous textures of this living room work together to create such a treat for the eye!

This client lives in a very grand, 1920s brick Georgian home.  Her tastes run to the traditional, with a love for French antiques and feminine elements.  With all of this in mind, I set out to create a formal living room exactly tailored to my client’s wishes.

With formality as our ultimate goal, I chose important and significant antique and art pieces.  The stunning antique blue lamps are from Carlos de la Puenta and set the overall tone for the room.  They also anchor the lovely vignette of the sofa with the antique Dufar screen.  This living room is saturated with Neoclassical elements, from the hand-painted commodes to the antique ribbon and metal elements at the base of the sofa.

I really enjoy the contrast of luscious velvets against the creme grasscloth wall covering from Philip Jeffries.  The vibrant colors and sumptuous textures of the living room work together to create a complex, multi-layered experience.

Habitually Chic

Heather Clawson’s blog Habitually Chic is a visual treasure trove of glamor, style, and design.

Heather Clawson

The worlds of fashion, art, style, and interior design intersect, overlap, and influence each other in a multitude of ways.  Finding a resource that incorporates all of these elements is always exciting.  In that vein, Heather Clawson’s blog Habitually Chic is a visual treasure trove of glamor, style, and design.  She uses the blog to chronicle her “musings on art, architecture, design, fashion, photography, books, events, and everything else habitually chic!”

From incredible artists and stunning exhibits to celebrity photo shoots of Demi Moore or Robert Pattinson, from gorgeous examples of chic advertising to courtyard doors in Paris, Habitually Chic showcases every conceivable facet of life as related to interior design.  When combined with Clawson’s thoughts and opinions, the wealth of photos becomes one inspiration or idea after another.

 

Images from Habitually Chic

NY Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show

Set in the beautiful Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Holiday Train Show features model trains running through replicas of famous New York City landmarks.

This year marks the 20th Annual Holiday Train Show at the NYC Botanical Gardens.  Running from Nov 19, 2011 through Jan 16, 2012, this is truly an enchanting show for all ages.

Set in the beautiful Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Holiday Train Show features model trains running through replicas of famous New York City landmarks.   As you walk through the conservatory, you  have the pleasure of watching the model trains chug their charming way through the lush greenery and around such well-known sights as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.  As if that weren’t a fun enough concept, the NYC replicas are constructed from parts of plants such as bark, leaves, and nuts!  Imagine the city transformed into a woodland fairy world and you get a fairly good idea of what the Holiday Train Show has in store.

I just love the detail and artistry of these buildings!
It isn't hard to imagine this city populated with sprites!

It’s hard to imagine the scale of the train show from just these pictures, but the next two will give you a better idea of the size of the displays.  In addition, this year the Holiday Train Show features a new attraction called the Artists’ Studio.  It allows visitors to see the process involved in construction of the NYC replicas.  You’ll be able to see buildings in various stages of completion, from start to finish!

Visitors admire some of the replicas.
You can walk right under the Brooklyn Bridge!

Whether you’re looking for a family outing or a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, the Holiday Train Show is an excellent option.  Take a leisurely stroll, admire the creativity and ingenuity of the replicas among the vibrant flora, enjoy hot chocolate and gingersnaps, and lose yourself in a magical world!

Visit the NYC Botanical Garden website for ticket information and show hours.

Artisan Chocolates

Few people can resist the dark allure of really good chocolate.

Few people can resist the dark allure of really good chocolate.  We associate chocolate with rich desserts, lavish Valentine’s Day gifts, and decadent holiday treats, but what we now call chocolate began as a very different kind of concoction.

Mankind’s love affair with chocolate began a staggering 4,000 years ago in the Amazon when cocoa beans were roasted, ground, and made into an unsweetened, bitter drink.  In the 16th century Spain, the brilliant step of blending chocolate with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon created a fashionable beverage for the nobility.  It wasn’t until 1830, however, that a process for developing solid eating chocolate was finally developed, and another few decades would pass before the inception of milk chocolate.

With the holidays quickly approaching, I want to focus on gorgeous artisan chocolates.  Odds are, a gift box of these beautiful chocolates would make someone on your gift list a very happy person.  I’ve found that local chocolatiers often combine exquisite craftsmanship with high quality, fresh ingredients for the kind of chocolate experience a mass-produced chocolate company cannot compare with.

Truffles

 

 

 

Connoisseur Collection

 

For example, DeBrand Fine Chocolates is a family-owned chocolate company in Indiana.  Each piece of chocolate is meticulously hand-crafted from the highest quality ingredients.  These chocolates taste as incredible as they look, with traditional as well as exotic flavors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another noteworthy artisan chocolate shop is Alma Chocolate in Portland, Oregon.  Chocolatier Sarah Hart creates traditional truffles, bon bons in a variety of tempting flavors, and unique molded chocolates decorated with edible gold leaf.

Thai peanut butter cup
Quan Yin Icon

 

Christopher Elbow Chocolates in Kansas City and San Francisco, sculpts tiny works of art into delectable chocolate creations.  Each confection is as much a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Christopher Elbow Chocolate Collection

In my experience, the ideal chocolate shop offers hand-made chocolates made from fresh ingredients on a small scale.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a small chocolate shop that makes their own artisan chocolates, all of the examples here ship chocolates anywhere in the U.S.  For gifts, dessert or favors at your next dinner party or event, beautiful little works of art like this can please on every aesthetic level.